༺ Airship ༻
Everyone was astounded by the flames and smoke billowing from the airship.
“What the… did the airship just explode!?”
“Eh, will Elizabeth be okay?”
Schultz looked up at the sky with a perplexed expression, and Titania raised her voice in fear. However, there was no one who could answer their questions.
While everyone was in confusion, a flustered voice from the radio announcer could be heard.
[Wh, what just happened? There’s been an explosion on the airship and black smoke is rising! Is…is this an accident?]
Emotions are contagious. Especially fear, which is more powerful and faster.
As the murmuring sounds of the citizens came from the radio, anxiety spread like a fog. The festive atmosphere filled with joy just moments ago now seemed like a lie. The students were unable to avoid the turmoil.
But all of this was familiar to me as breathing. On the battlefield, the situation is always changing. Having lived in chaos for so long, my mind coolly froze over, and my reason quickly judged what had to be done.
I calmly issued instructions to the students.
“Go back to the dormitory immediately.”
Marian responded to my command a beat later.
“…Just go back? We can do something-“
“There’s nothing you can do in this situation.”
There was no one who contradicted my firm stance, not even Marian who first spoke. However, among those present, there was only one person who had the potential to assist me… That was Oznia.
Just a few minutes ago, she was napping on Titania’s lap, but now she was fully awake, looking at me with calm eyes.
“Oznia. Can you use teleport?”
Teleportation was a high-level magic. It was natural that a student wouldn’t be able to use it.
However, she was the disciple of a Magic Tower master. As if it was a matter of course, Oznia nodded and replied.
“I can use it. But there’s a problem.”
“Because of the coordinate interference, spatial movement is impossible within the Academy, and a similar thing is installed on the airship. So, I can’t use teleportation to get close to the airship.”
Right. There was no easy way out.
Still, it was good news that Oznia could use teleportation.
Even though we couldn’t move into the airship, it meant that we could move near it.
“Only Oznia will follow me, everyone else evacuate to the dormitory.”
“But, Instructor, what about Elizabeth?”
Titania asked. At her words, the students’ attention was focused on me. Their eyes were filled with a mix of fear and worry.
I slowly looked up at the sky. From the flaming airship, black smoke was continuously billowing out, but the airship was still floating in the sky.
However, after such a big explosion, it was uncertain how much longer it could stay airborne. It wouldn’t be strange if it fell right now.
In the past, according to a soldier’s duty, I would have helped the civilians to evacuate and contributed to dealing with the situation. Maybe I would even have been given the role of saving the princess.
But now was different.
I was now an instructor, and aboard that airship was Elizabeth, who was my student before she was a princess.
As an instructor, I should protect my students.
“I’ll bring Elizabeth back.”
Schultz asked in a voice full of questions.
“Instructor, how are you going to get to the airship, floating so high in the sky?”
Schultz’s question was reasonable. After all, humans can’t fly. But I simply answered,
“There’s a way.”
Hot flames, thick smoke, and continuous minor explosion sounds. The violently swaying airship looked like it could fall at any moment.
As chaotic as the people on the ground were, the situation on the airship was even more serious. It had to be. If the airship fell, everyone inside would essentially be dead.
Dr. Brown, his beard singed by the intense heat and his body covered in soot and dust, coughed heavily as he emerged from the engine room.
“Cough, cough! It’s gone! The engine’s completely out!”
At Dr. Brown’s declaration – the very man who developed this airship – the faces of the people hardened.
What he meant was that even he couldn’t prevent the airship’s crash.
Katarina, the loyal Knight of the princess, shouted angrily.
“Try something! Didn’t you build this ship!”
“That’s why I can see there’s no answer! The engine has completely stopped! Right now, we’re just floating on the remaining power! Damn it! My design was surely perfect…!”
“So it exploded again, didn’t it!”
“That was all considered in the launch! This is something that has gone through dozens more test flights! The strange thing is why it exploded all of a sudden today!”
At Elizabeth’s shout, the two of them shut their mouths.
“It’s not Dr. Brown’s fault. So, stop. Katarina, try to suppress the fire as much as possible. We will suffocate and die before the airship falls at this rate. Doctor, please try to find a way to restore the engine if possible. If not, at least find a way for people to land safely.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“I shall do as you say.”
Following Elizabeth’s instructions, the two people left the deck to perform their respective duties.
After they left, Elizabeth tried to calmly assess the situation.
She knew that this could be a trap set for her.
But she didn’t anticipate that her opponent would go to such extremes.
It wasn’t that she had been foolishly complacent, thinking they wouldn’t try to kill her own younger sister . If she had been so naive, she would have lost her life to an assassin disguised as a maid on her fifth birthday.
Elizabeth had frequently faced assassination threats. Therefore, she had known for a long time that the crown prince wanted her dead.
However, previous assassination attempts usually took place in quiet and secret places, so they could be disguised as accidents or suicides, even if Elizabeth were to die.
Of course, most nobles would figure out that these were assassinations, but there was a distinct difference between disguising as an accident or suicide and murdering openly.
The former could be seen as part of the common power struggles within the royal family, while the latter was something that only a tyrant would do.
Moreover, Crown Prince Wilhelm was always someone who liked being the center of attention.
While enjoying the feeling of being the protagonist at the parade, would he have wanted to kill her so much that he was willing to damage his own stage?
Such a scheme was an unlikely move if it were Elizabeth. After all, it was Crown Prince Wilhelm who had ordered her to board this airship.
If the airship exploded in the skies of the Empire with the princess on board, anyone could reasonably infer that Crown Prince Wilhelm was behind it.
If she were to die here today, it would be natural to face the ridicule of the entire continent as the widely publicized airship project would have been scrapped.
Moreover, even if Wilhelm were to become the future emperor, he would have to bear the stigma of having killed his sister and ruined the dignity of the empire.
Was he pushed to such an extent, taking into account all of this, to carry out such an act….
Elizabeth let out a short sigh to calm herself down.
The decision to board the airship, despite the potential risks, was hers and hers alone.
She had thoroughly prepared for the worst-case scenario. She checked several times to ensure there were no traps hidden inside the airship, and the crew had been carefully selected to include only trustworthy individuals with the help of the imperial intelligence agency.
Dr. Brown posed no problem because, due to his eccentric personality, he had no interest in the dispute for the throne, and she judged that the intelligence from the agency, which always maintained neutrality, could be trusted.
However, now that she found herself in such a situation, all of it seemed doubtful.
Who was behind this incident? Was Wilhelm truly behind all of this? Was the perpetrator who blew up the airship in the sky Dr. Brown, who developed the airship, or one of the crew members?
While immersed in these worries, someone approached Elizabeth.
“Are you all right, Your Highness?”
The man looked like a rough sailor with a beard, but he was wearing a uniform of the Imperial Navy.
He was Alfred, a colonel in the Imperial Navy who had been chosen to be the captain of this airship based on his experience of navigating numerous ships.
‘…If he’s the captain of the ship, he might have had the opportunity to secretly plant a bomb.’
Elizabeth responded calmly, not showing her internal doubts.
“I’m fine. You seem quite calm yourself, Colonel.”
“Well, I’ve experienced losing a ship more than once or twice.”
“Are you familiar with this situation?”
“It somehow turned out that way. As a captain, I should have shared my fate with the ship, but I’ve regretted not being able to do so until now… maybe today might be that day.”
His words were not a simple joke to be laughed off.
Elizabeth had no intention of dying here. Though she had always lived prepared for death, dying here in this situation was something she could never accept.
For all those who should have died in her place.
Elizabeth’s hand was tightly clutching the ’emergency measure’ she had covertly prepared in her pocket.
With it, she might be able to save herself… but she couldn’t guarantee the lives of the others on the airship.
She had been constantly wondering if it was right to abandon everyone on the airship and escape alone.
Although her reason said that it was, Elizabeth had been constantly putting off that decision.
Could someone come to help?
Elizabeth firmly scolded herself, nearly falling into a weak thought.
Who would come, indeed, in these skies?
The only thing she could trust and rely on was herself; everyone else was simply a relationship to be used when needed and used in return. The knights who had sworn loyalty to her, her friends at school, and everyone else.
Who would risk their life to save such a cold woman who doesn’t trust others and doesn’t open her heart to anyone?
Even if there were such a person, the reason would be simply that she was a princess. There could be no other reason.
It was then that she thought so.
A familiar rumble echoed from somewhere. At first, she mistook it for the sound of the airship’s engine, but it wasn’t. The engine had already stopped a long time ago, and this sound was coming from a further distance.
“What in the world…?”
The moment she turned her head to the sudden roaring sound, everyone witnessed a sight hard to believe.
A man on a bike was falling towards the airship.
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